Tag Archives: lion

South Africa, the Eastern side…

Leaving Botswana we descended into South Africa, passing through Polokwane. Making scenic stops at the Blyde River Canyon, heading down to Kruger National Park and ending in Johannesburg.

Blyde River Canyon

Bourke's Luck PotholesEntering into South Africa we stopped at three sights in the By;de River Canyon Region. The first stop was the The Rondavels, which are circular mountain and rock formations that look like the traditional circular huts made of dung and thatch, which are called Rondavels. Due to the mist the view wasn’t as spectacular as it could have been but it was still beautiful to see these mountains with a view over the valley and river.

The second stop was to view Bourke’s Luck Potholes. They are at a point in the river where the water flows down a small waterfall into the river below. At various points in the rock path, are some beautifully smooth, round potholes caused by the wind and water swirling through them. In addition to be ing fascinated by the shapes created, the colours and layers of sediment in the stone were beautiful to see.

God’s Window was the last sight we visited in the region, at the higher altitude we were in the clouds and unable to see the view. We did however enjoy a short rainforest walk and thoroughly appreciated the lush green vegetation and fresh mountain air.

Kruger National Park

The main highlight of our visit to Eastern South Africa was a visit to what I think is probably the most well known national park in Africa, Kruger National Park. We did a sunset game drive and a sunrise game drive.

White Rhinoceros

Sunset Game Drive

Late in the afternoon we met our driver Rick, climbed into his jeep and headed into the park. Rick was a really fun guide, who was very knowledgeable. He made the drive and information we learned fascinating and entertaining.

We saw loads of Impala, but that is to be expected since they are everywhere. We also saw Waterbuck, Hippopotamus, Buffalo, Zebra, Waterhog and my personal favourite in Kruger: White Rhinoceros.

BushbuckThe white rhinoceros earned its name, not from its colour, but from a mistranslation of wide mouth. The white rhinoceros is larger than the black rhino and it grazes grasses hence the wide mouth, rather than browse trees for leaves like the black rhino, who has a more narrow, hooked mouth.

We were ridiculously lucky to see a crash of white rhinos, at a distance we believe there to have been five of them: two bulls, two cows and a calf.

As the sun dropped in the sky we found a nice place to stop. Rick set up a little picnic table with nuts and popcorn to nibble or, as well as pouring us each a glass of Amarula liqueur to enjoy as the sun went down.

The Amarula liqueur is made from the fruit of the Marula tree. It is a sweet creamy liqueur which I would say is kind of comparable to Baileys Irish Cream. The Marula trees grow in various places around Africa, when the fruit is ripe it falls to the ground and ferments, at which time many drunk animals can be found stumbling around the national parks.

While we didn’t get drunk on our Amarula sundowners, we were in high spirits as we took off to see a few more animals before retiring for the evening. We managed to spot a Scrub Hare, Blue Duiker (the smallest antelope breed, which is unfortunately almost extinct), Nightjars (which are birds, part of the owl family) and some Kudu.

Sunset in Kruger National Park

Sunrise Game Drive

Hyena and pupWe woke up early, bundled ourselves up in layers of clothing and jumped into our jeep, with the first female driver we had, Nicky. I would love to claim that the female driver was the best game driver of all time, but unfortunately she was actually the worst driver we ever experienced. She took her own photos at each of the animal sightings and then gave us only a few brief moments to take ours before rushing off to the next thing. Also despite having paid extra for the game drive, we were returned to the camp earlier than the scheduled end time.

Despite having a terrible guide we did get to see loads of animals. We saw a number of Elephants, Hyenas with pups, a collution of Cheetahs, Buffalos, Klipspringers, more White Rhino’s, Lions, a Leopard, Hippos, Giraffes, Water Terrapins hanging out on a hippos back, Woolley Neck Storks, Bushbucks, Kudus and a Water Monitor.

Random animal facts…

ZebraMale elephants eat roughly 280kilograms of food per day, females 180Kg. The drink approximately 100 litres of water per day and their trunk contains 100,000 independent muscles.

Lions sleep for approximately 20 hours per day.

Cheetahs can accelerate from 0-96km/h in three seconds, but they need to catch their prey within 500 metres or they will overheat.
Also, a cheetah is the only big cat that doesn’t typically climb trees, due to the fact that it’s claws are not retractable.

A pack of hyenas is led by a female whose clitoris grows so big it looks like a penis. When she gives birth it tears out and then has to re-grow.

Rock Hyrax - known as a Dassie in South AfricaMale vervet monkeys have bright blue balls, the brightness of blue is an indicator of their virility.

Every zebra has its own set of stripes that identify it, like fingerprints.

The Rock Hyrax (or Dassie as it is known in South Africa) looks a bit like a rodent, but surprisingly it’s closest relative is the elephant.


Soweto TowersWe arrived in Johannesburg in the late afternoon and said goodbye to our fabulous group of new friends, which is always sad.

The following day I met some friends to have a bit of a look around Soweto, visiting the Hector Pieterson Museum and Mandela House. I went out for lunch and a beer and checked out the street art, before heading to the airport for my flight to Cape Town.


South Luangwa National Park, Zambia

Elephants hanging out in the shadeAfter Malawi, we headed to Zambia for a few days. We spent the majority of our time in the South Luangwa National Park. In addition to sown time relaxing in the campsite with a view of the river, we did a sunrise game drive and a sunset game drive.

On both occasions I was in the jeep with a driver called Ryver. His english was really good, he had a great sense of humour and was incredibly knowledgeable about the area.

Hippopotamus' hanging out in a lakeSouth Luangwa National Park is the park with the highest concentration of leopards. The time of year we visited wasn’t conducive to seeing all these leopards unfortunately, as the grasses were too high, providing too many hiding places for the stealthy cats.

GiraffesDespite our misfortune with leopards, we were certainly very fortunate with the other animals. We saw many Thorny croft giraffe (a breed of giraffe only found in Zambia); Nile crocodiles; a Hawk Eagle; Vervant monkeys (the males have bright blue balls, which is bizarre, but easy for identifying the type of monkey); Puku (a bigger breed of antelope that’s all brown); Impala; Hippos; Lions; Golden baboons; Elephants, Zebras, Hyenas and Vultures. We enjoyed a morning coffee beside a hippo pool!

One of the most fascinating, but disgusting parts of the game drive was seeing the carcass of an elephant that had been dead and picked at for five days. A pack of hyenas were taking turns picking at whatever parts of the elephant there was left to eat, while in the background the vultures patiently waited their turn. It was a very visible demonstration of both the circle of life and the food chain.

Pack of Hyenas eating a dead elephant

During our sunset drive we found ourselves amongst a large herd of elephants, there were mature adults with huge tusks all the way through the baby elephants only a few days or weeks old.

Sunset over the Luangwa RiverAs the sun lowered in the sky, we pulled up by the river to listen to the hippo’s, watch the crocodiles and drink a ‘sundowner’. After dark our spotlighter did a good job of finding animals for us to observe, including a pride of lions stalking a herd of Impala. The impala got spooked and ran before the lions got close enough. But we were able to follow the lions for some time afterwards.

Morrison stuck in the mudLeaving the camp the following day after a night of solid rainfall caused some issues with mud on the road and Morrison (the truck) was soon bogged into the embankment at a precarious angle. With some pushing, good humour, dancing, singing and the help of a truck we managed to get Morrison out of the ditch and on the road again.

Then we were on our way to Zimbabwe!



Mikumi National Park, Tanzania

Mikumi National Park

A Leopard walking down the highwayMikumi National Park is the fourth largest National Park in Tanzania. It is 3230 square kilometres and shares a border with one of the biggest game parks in Tanzania.

We did a half day game drive in the National Park with some local guides. Our group was spread across three jeeps, unfortunately only one of the drivers had reasonable English so we didn’t learn any new information about the park and the animals along the way. I will say though that I was happy enough with our non-english speaking driver, as it was a much safer jeep to be in than the one with no brakes!

WildebeestOn the drive into the game park we were all astounded to start our morning off with seeing a leopard strolling down the main highway. Unfortunately it had lost it’s tail, which I am sure affects it’s ability to climb trees, stalk and hunt. Despite this, it still looked quite healthy.

Once in the National Park we were all very interested to note that the vegetation was so much different to both the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater, and in fact it was much nicer with a greater variety of landscape.

The park was gorgeous and once again luck was on our side. We saw: a Leopard; Lions; Giraffes; Elephants; Zebras; Impala; Hippos; Bushbucks; Buffalos; Wildebeest; Warthogs; Golden Baboons; and many other smaller animals and birds.

Bull Elephant

Baobab Valley

Hugging a Baobab TreeDeparting the Mikumi National Park on our way to Malawi, we stopped by Baobab Valley to take some photos.

The Baobab Tree is the funny looking tree in Africa (it can also be found in some other countries) that has a really wide trunk and looks kind of like a bottle with leaves on the top. There are nine species in the family and they all look a little bit different, but they all have the very wide trunk to store water in.

Traditionally the tree is viewed as sacred, it has many medicinal uses and when you hug the tree you can make a wish.

The tree’s look really cool and their bark feels lovely – I admit I hugged the tree longer than necessary, because it felt good and I had some very important wishes to make.


Serengeti National Park & Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania

I flew into Nairobi, Kenya to join a 3 week overlanding tour of East Africa with the tour operator Nomad Tours South Africa, booked through Peri Peri Reizen. The guides Nika, TK and Evans introduced themselves and set a friendly and fun tone for the tour. They made introductions and then bundled us into our overland truck (the truck is named Morrison) and set off for Arusha in Tanzania. Arusha is the gateway to Serengeti National Park, Ngorongoro  Crater & Mount Kilimanjaro. We spent two nights in Arusha, one before and one after our jeep  safari.

Elephant CrossingRun by local operator Tanzania Experiences, we headed off to the Serengeti National Park and Ngorongoro Crater for a four day/three night jeep safari. The jeep safari was an additional excursion on top of the tour and cost approximately USD$560.

The safari was spent almost entirely in the jeep for two reasons, firstly the distances are huge so there is a great deal of time spent in transit between locations, secondly the parks are full of amazing, but very dangerous animals, so seeing them is done in the form of a game drive.

We did three game drives in the Serengeti National Park and one in the Ngorongoro Crater.

Serengeti National Park

The name ‘Serengeti’ means Endless Plain and accurately reflects the size, 14762 square kilometres, and appearance of the park. It is the second largest national park in Tanzania. Despite is being called a plain, the landscape is broken up with rivers, lakes, hills, rocky outcropping a and trees. This can make it challenging for spotting animals, but does provide them a varied environment with many shady areas under which they can escape the heat of the day.

Lioness taking a restOur driver Rashid was absolutely brilliant on spotting wildlife and communicating with other drivers on where to find certain animals. He was very knowledgeable on breeds, facts, and statistics about the animals and shared the information with us in a fun and informative manner, sometimes pop quiz style.

We were incredibly lucky to see four of “The Big Five” numerous times in the park: Leopards, Elephants, Lions and Buffalo. The fifth animal in the big five is the Rhinoceros, which we saw in the Ngorongoro Crater.

Giraffe EatingWe also saw a Cheetah, Giraffes, Zebra, Topis, Impalas, Thomson Gazelles, Grant’s Gazelles, Wildebeest, Hippopotamus’, Black-backed Jackals, Hyraxes, Hartebeest, Warthogs, Hyena, Baboons, Ostriches and loads of different types of birds.

The best times to see the animals are in the cooler parts of the day, early morning and late afternoon. Even then many, such as the large cats, are usually found hiding in shady places in tree branches or under trees.

A cheetah looking for preyAs you can appreciate with any experience involving wildlife spotting, it is all about luck. I think we were incredibly lucky to have seen all of the animals that we did. Our biggest stroke of luck was in seeing a cheetah, the most solitary and reclusive of all the big cats. The cheetah was hanging out in the shade under a tree. We sat and watched it for some time, it got up and moved to another shady spot and then another. While we didn’t get to see a chase, we were thoroughly grateful to see the cat both sitting, standing and walking. An interesting piece of information about the cheetah – it differs from all the other big cats as it doesn’t climb trees due to the fact that it does by have retractable claws. If it were to climb a tree and get a claw stuck and damaged it would limit its ability to hunt effectively and most likely result in death.


Our tour guides put up tents for us in a campsite, Seronera Campsite.

The facilities provided were minimal but sufficient and there was no electricity.  I was a little surprised at the lack of protection against the wild here, but I guess that’s part of the thrill of being in a national park in Africa. After dark it was up to you to be vigilant and scan the darkness for eyes with your head torch.

The first night we heard Hyenas, Lions and a Leopard. The second night, even before going to bed, the camp was surrounded by Hyenas – animals which are thankfully scavengers. The first morning we had baboons rummaging through the trash can in the middle of the camp and the second morning buffalo were hanging around the outer edges of the site. These experiences were equal parts terrifying and exciting!

Sunset at our Serengeti Campsite


Ngorongoro Crater

Yawning HippopotamusThe Ngorongoro Crater is a UNESCO World Heritage listed site, that is a famous natural wonder. The rim to the crater floor varies in height from 400-610metres and is quite a deep descent. The crater floor is 19km wide and covers an area of 264 square kilometres.

ZebrasA pre-dawn wake up call had us descending into the crater as the sun was rising. The landscape was much flatter, greener and had fewer (almost no) trees, this made animal spotting a little bit easier.

A Black Rhinoceros in the distanceIn addition to the animals we saw in the Serengeti, we also saw Black Rhinoceros’, Bat-Eared Foxes, Golden Jackals and Elands on the crater floor.

The animal that we considered to be the specialty of Ngorongoro was the Black Rhinoceros. It is an animal close to extinction, with a current population estimated at around 400. Of the total population, approximately 15 are resident in the crater, and despite only being able to see them from a huge distance, we were lucky enough to see six of them.


Ngorongoro Crater CampsiteThe campsite at Ngorongoro Crater, Simba Campsite, was on the crater rim and had a reasonable view put towards the crater floor. This was a larger campsite than the Serengeti and had better facilities, including electricity, hot showers and armed security patrolling the site.

Maasai Village

Maasai Village WelcomeIn transit between the Serengeti National Park and the Ngorongoro Crater, we stopped to visit a Maasai Village, for USD$10 per person.

The Maasai of the village welcomed us outside their gates with a traditional welcome ceremony of chanting and dancing/jumping.

Once we were then invited in to the village where the men and women separated and showed us a little more of their traditional dancing/jumping, also inviting us to join in. It was actually really quite fun.

We were then given a tour of the village, including the livestock pen, the school and a home.

School children in a Maasai VillageThe life of the Maasai centers around their livestock and their village construction reflects this. In the center of the village is a circular pen where livestock are kept overnight. During the day the livestock are herded around the countryside. The houses are all built in a circle around the livestock pen and facing it, but with a four to five meter gap between. The houses are constructed from Acacia trees, cow dung and urine. It’s not the most watertight construction, so when it rains they pull a plastic tarpaulin over each home. The men of the village may have multiple wives, and for each family there is one home (so one man might have a few homes).

Interestingly, the school building we visited was outside of both of these circles. On questioning I was told that it is because the school is only used for an hour or two during the day for children who aren’t yet old enough to go to proper school, and that day time is safe.

Buying handmade jewellery from the MaasaiTo end the tour we were asked to visit the marketplace of each of the families. Around the circle between the livestock pen and the houses were small ‘shops’ from each family to sell their beaded jewellery and handcrafts. Their prices were exorbitant, but by spending inside their community it is nice to choose products that are handmade by their creator with the knowledge that the money goes directly to the community without a store taking commission. It is a very touristic setup, but nonetheless fascinating. On my way back to the bus a lovely gentleman advised me, with eager eyes, that he had one black wife, but would also like to have a white wife…


Toilets in East Africa, particularly an overlanding trip, deserve a special mention. You will find three kinds of toilet in East Africa: a normal western toilet, a squat toilet and a bush toilet. Firstly you can’t assume for any of these that there will be toilet paper, so always carry a roll in your backpack.

The Western Toilet

Often, but not always, when you find a western toilet it’s in a tourist destination that’s maybe a bit more up-scale. They often have a toilet seat and are often quite clean.

The Squat Toilet

The squat toilet is pretty common around East Africa. Unfortunately they are often quite dirty and smelly, mostly just because westerners are unfamiliar with how to use them, and finding one that is dirty and smelly is not conducive to wanting to give something new a try. Thought they are much more hygienic than a standard western toilet since you actually don’t touch anything.

The Bush Toilet

The bush toilet can be found literally anywhere and it’s more hygienic than the western or squat toilet. You simply squat behind a bush, tree or even a car. It’s actually rather hilarious when the truck pulls over, everyone gets out and all you can see are girls heads peeking out over the tall grasses on the roadside as everyone squats (you will need to put your modesty aside for this excursion). 

The rule of thumb is that any paper you use should be put in the trash can, not thrown on the ground and poop should be buried (personally I’m happy to do a bush wee, but I would personally wait for the nearest western convenience for any pooping)

Medical Advice

First and foremost, consult a travel GP before heading to East Africa. Two things I know as a fact – you must have your Yellow Fever vaccination and take Malaria prevention tablets (and use really good bug spray with a high percentage of DEET). My vaccination record was checked for Yellow Fever at the border when I transited from Kenya to Tanzania.

The last time I checked you also require up to date vaccinations for Typhoid, Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B and Tetanus.

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